Blog by: Josh Shelton
While I knew fan interaction was going to be a part of this trip. Little did I know, the Twins fans were ready for their close-up… like really close-up.
It started much later than usual (8:45 a.m. instead of 6 a.m.), so I was feeling oddly well rested. After breakfast, I had a lukewarm shower to minimize the pain from water coming in to contact with my sun burnt skin.
I was dressed and ready to roll when we began our voyage to Fort Meyers to find stories in Hammond Stadium amongst the 8,615 attending fans.
Spontaneously finding a story takes a lot of patience, observation and, most importantly, an insane amount of luck. I thought I had the luck when I noticed two Twins fans cheering ecstatically for a young relief pitcher, Taylor Rogers.
They were Rita and Angie Duda, and while they weren’t related to Rogers, they did have a deep connection to the Twins ball club.
My story idea faded into the background, but I knew they would make for great characters in a live video. Once the video started, I barely had to do any of the talking.
The ‘Duda Duo’ were naturals on camera, keeping the story moving and providing plenty of laughs along the way. I could not stop smiling and I am truly thankful for them providing with an unforgettable memory (which you can enjoy below).
After my outfield experience, I wandered around the ballpark before making my way behind home plate for the final innings.
Shortly after the Twins comeback win in the ninth and tenth innings, a woman who I thought was interested in what we were doing approached me. Instead, she was interested in my hair.
She explained that her grandson recently got a hair cut just like mine, but the back was causing problems for the hairdresser. She politely asked something I had never been asked before: a picture of the back of my head.
I agreed and then she asked for a front facing picture then proceeded to rub my hair in admiration (I think) before she showed proof of her grandson’s haircut.
While it was a bit bizarre, I can’t remember a time where I wasn’t smiling.
Twins fans: 8/10, super friendly, but quick to jump into your space.
Blog by: Samantha Johnson
Season 11 viewers of NBC’s hit television show “America’s Got Talent” were star-struck by 21-year-old Sal Valentinetti. The pizza deliveryman from Bethpage, New York blew the crowd away at his first audition by singing and crooning to Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Since the end of his “America’s Got Talent” run, Sal has performed in concerts and tours across the country. Sunday, however, he spent his day like many other Americans: watching baseball at the ballpark. Sal, along with a group of friends, took to First Data Field in Port St. Lucie to catch the New York Mets play the St. Louis Cardinals.
Just for the record, Sal confessed to me that he actually is not a Mets or a Cardinals fan at all, but rather a fan of the New York Yankees: hence the black shirt under the hot, Florida sun.
I have to admit, I was surprised to learn that not very many people were familiar with his story. Although he only competed on “America’s Got Talent,” his fame has been shared through countless other mediums. I, however, was not about to pass up the chance to meet the charming, unique and talented Sal Valentinetti.
As he came closer, hotdog and beer in hand, I anxiously waved like a star-struck teenager. He waved back, and with a little encouragement from a classmate, I built up the nerve to walk over and say hello. He greeted me by saying, “Well, hello sweet thing,” at which point I responded by saying,” Oh my gosh! I can’t believe this is happening!”
As a third-year journalism student, you’d think I would be able to introduce myself and hold a steady conversation, but not with Sal. His overwhelming personality and charm took control, as I was at a loss for words. It was almost as if the roles were reversed, as he seemed to be interviewing me.
We talked briefly, we took a few pictures, and we went on our way. It was neat to experience the concept that not all celebrities and story ideas are on the baseball diamond. Sometimes the most interesting part of the baseball game isn’t about baseball at all.
Until next time, Sal…
Blog by: Grace Ramey
As we’ve moved into our third day of reporting on spring training, I’ve been continually surprised how interested people are in the work we are doing.
I’ve had several fans and subjects of our stories approach me, asking what I am working on and where they can find the content we publish.
We were told before we left people would be intrigued, would ask questions and would be looking for our work, but I guess I just figured no one would truly care since we are only college students.
I assumed the only way we would actually get traffic on our website and social media sites would be if we pushed the links on them. But from the past few days, I’ve realized how wrong I was.
From the interactions I have had with fans and various subjects, I have seen how eager they are to see what we’re producing. I wouldn’t be surprised if the people we’ve handed our cards to went home that same night and looked up our accounts and website.
They are excited for us and want to read and view our content. It seems like this should have been obvious to me, but I assumed few people outside of our family members would care to see our work.
It just goes to show that people really are hungry for stories and information, and it makes me more hopeful for our futures as journalists.
Blog by: Breanna Daugherty
I’ve sat in a car for 7 hours before, but driving 7 hours is another story.
Driving has been the most physically draining tasks of the past couple of days; and the one I underestimated the most.
I honestly didn’t really start driving regularly until last year, so driving this much in only a few days has been completely different for me.
I haven’t minded driving for the most part, but there are some stretches of pavement that feel like they go on miles and they may never end. Don’t get me wrong, Florida is a beautiful state, and I’m surprised by how much sand I’ve seen while being inland; but sometimes it gets boring.
For example, we took the scenic route to Port St. Lucie to cover the New York Mets. It was vast, flat and green for miles. I was easily bored at the lack of things to keep my attention on the road. I would try to think of story ideas, but I quickly became just as tired as my four passengers that had already dozed off.
Maybe it was just the lack of sleep and coffee, rather than the scenery of Florida (I can’t blame a whole state for something like this).
I’ll be sure to make to have a constant stream of coffee for our next long drive, and hope for some not so static scenery.
Blog by: Aaliyah English
We have officially made it to day three of spring training, but it feels like it we have spent weeks traveling for team to team and finding many compelling stories. With each day I find myself slowly finding my rhythm and developing a routine.
Although I am tired and feel like I’m a little in over my head, I believe that this experience is pushing me to my limit and forcing me to think outside of the box. With each team we visit we aren’t 100-percent sure of the type of access we will get, or who we will be able to talk to. While that gets a little frustrating at times, it has pushed us to find new stories and think on our feet and I really appreciate that.
I’m now finishing up a project with Bre Daugherty about the fans favorite foods to eat at at the ballpark. We met and interviewed a lot of characters and have had the pleasure of trying tasty, well mostly tasty, foods at each park. This story allowed me to try new things as a journalist but also pushes me to try foods that I normally would not as well.
At the Twins game today, I had the pleasure of trying a Minnesota fan favorite – fried cheese curds. I’m not a big fan of cheese so under normal circumstances I would not try them, but being surrounded by Twins fans, it seemed like the right thing to do.
I was told the best way to eat them was with ranch, but with no ranch to be found, eating them plain was the next best thing. The cheese curds reminded me or a mozzarella stick, just with less batter.
After trying my first batch of cheese curds I wouldn’t exactly consider myself a cheese head, but I’m glad that I gave it a try.
Blog by: Eric Kuznar
As a group we have been in Florida for two days and have covered stories around Ball State University baseball and the New York Mets .
The obvious choice of stories would be the players performing on the field or the loudest most exuberant fan in the crowd.
Over the last two days I have covered stories and done interviews with both of these types of sources. While these stories and their sources are valuable, as a reporter it is easy to overlook other stories.
I’m not talking about stories that readers usually think of as breaking news or stories that take three months to compile sources and data. They are often quiet, reserved and sitting right next to you in the crowd.
These types of stories can contain a few of the most heartfelt and genuine people.
During my experience at two separate ballparks searching through the proverbial haystack for stories, I managed to stick my hand in the right clumps of hay and get pricked by two such stories.
At Ball State’s spring games against Northeastern and Chicago State University it was two men who were college teammates at BSU during the 1960s’ who reconnected later in life. They’ve become close friends who chase Ball State baseball when they can even though they live on opposite sides of the country.
During the New York Mets spring game against the St. Louis Cardinals it came in the form of a friendly usher who I happened to be standing next to by chance. I began interviewing him for one story only to see a man walking up to him holding an old NBA players card.
The man proceeded to ask the usher for his autograph. The Usher turned out to be Steve Mix who played in the NBA and works as an usher at Mets games to fill time in his retirement.
While neither of the stories are what you would think of as front-page headlines. These stories are just as valuable and often harder to find because they are not in your face, the focus of everyone’s attention or yelling over everyone in the crowd.
They often come as diamonds in the rough that reporters find with a mixture of just talking to people and sheer luck of being in the right place at the right time, shaking the right person’s hand.
Blog by: Samantha Johnson
Sunny skies and warm temperatures filled North Charlotte Regional Park this afternoon as Ball State competed in a Snowbird Baseball Classic doubleheader.
Cardinal fans traveled from all across the nation to support the team. As our group of small journalists covered many different stories composed of many different people, one thing became very clear: baseball is more than just a game.
According to the 2017 Merriam-Webster online dictionary, “family” can be classified by a handful of definitions. However, ask anyone at Regional Park today, and they will say that family means baseball.
Shortly after arriving to the ballpark, it became very evident that the dedication, support and love of the game is for more than just sport. Each person I spoke with mentioned the concept of family, as the fans, parents and players all seemed to be one, loving family.
Parents came from Wisconsin. Siblings came from Michigan. Alumnae came from across the Midwest. The Ball State “family” all gathered this afternoon at North Charlotte Regional Park to support Cardinal Country and to spend a day at the diamond.
Please enjoy the attached audio file to hear from a few family members:
Blog by: Robby General
I knew we were going to have to adjust on this Spring Training trip, it is journalism after all, but Day 1 in Florida has been filled with its share of surprises.
During our first day, our group had three different trips set up, to later find out that only one of our day’s plans would actually work itself out.
To begin, five of us were supposed to travel an hour-and-a-half to Lakeland, Florida to cover the Detroit Tigers.
We woke up early, packed our equipment and prepared to take off for the first excursion of the trip.
Turns out, they had us scheduled for another day.
Okay, so big deal, we rescheduled and got it figured out. I, like the rest of our staff, figured we would just go to the Kids and the Kubs, a 75-year-old plus softball club, who the remainder of our 15-person group was already planning on visiting.
The Kids and the Kubs play every Saturday from the beginning of November until the end of March. It’s a tradition that began in 1930, and barring weather, hasn’t missed a beat.
That is, until we showed up.
We had all of our minivans packed, and one was pulling out of the LaQuinta parking lot, when one of our videographers, Samantha Johnson, decided to call in and confirm our trip that day.
That’s when she came back with the news we didn’t want to hear.
“Kids and the Kubs aren’t playing today,” she said.
On what seemed like a perfect day – not a cloud in the sky – one Floridian had a different plan for us, inhibiting us from going to St. Petersburg that day.
Apparently there was police activity inhibiting us from visiting the team, so we again, had to adjust.
Okay... So third times a charm, right?
Fortunately, it was. We still were able to go to cover the Ball State baseball team, who had a double header scheduled against Northeastern and Chicago State in Port Charlotte.
Just like any day in the life of a journalist, a daily schedule rarely goes as planned, you have to be prepared for changes.
Like when two out of three of your destinations fall through.
But, we adjusted and adapted, and did a damn good job doing it.
Following our seven-hours of coverage at the Snowbird Classic facility in Port Charlotte, we headed 90 miles up-state to the Tampa Bay Times.
We were guided by Ball State graduate and full-time copy editor and designer Ashley Dye and the Times digital reporter, Sara DiNatale, who recalled a quote from her father when she spoke to us about what the career of a journalist is like starting out.
“You’ve got to roll with the punches, and block with your face,” she said.
Sounds about right, and it fits the bill of our first day. Let’s just hope every day isn’t as exciting as this one.
Blog by: Ryan Flanery
After a planned day with the Detroit Tigers, Kids N’ Kubs, Ball State baseball and a departure time of 8:00 a.m. some of our plans were moved to later in the week and our group of 15 was left with an extra hour before leaving to cover Ball State baseball.
So, what did I do with an extra hour of my time that early on a Saturday morning you might ask?
I went to a local coffee shop, of course.
The Reserve, a small locally owned and operated business in Sarasota, Florida welcomed a group of eight under-caffeinated individuals after just opening a few minutes before our arrival and missing their barista who was apparently late for work.
Co-owner, Jessica Simmons was ready and waiting patiently for our orders as we glared into her menu filled with assortments of coffees and teas.
Seeing a perplexed look on her face due to a swarm of pasty people was in her shop wearing T-shirts and shorts in 60-degree weather, I decided to start small talk.
Noticing her clothing choice of pants and a jacket I asked, “Is this a cold morning for you in Florida?” Her response, “I had the heat on in my car this morning.”
I had to chuckle because I was about to get my iced chai tea latte and sit on the patio during this ‘cold’ Florida morning.
Still looking confused, I explained the purpose of our pasty selves visiting Florida for spring training baseball.
Simmons instantly sprung with joy and told us about the room above her coffee shop and how she is renting to a couple whose nephew is a pitcher for the Baltimore Orioles.
That pitcher is lefty Wade Miley, throwing in his sixth season in the big leagues.
Most recently, Miley has played for the Orioles, helping stabilize the back end of the rotation for Baltimore.
Miley is posting a 4.18 career earned run average and holds a 58-59 win loss record.
The couple here to watch their nephew ventured down from the room and I was able to catch a quick conversation before I had to leave for the Ball State baseball game.
During that conversation, I learned Miley and his wife are parents to a five-month-old little boy, and that is the reason Miley’s aunt and uncle are here for spring training, and that is the reason they are staying in the room above The Reserve, an urban-like coffee shop, tasting room, and book store wrapped into one with family like living quarters above.
Family brought together by baseball.
If today taught me anything it is that this little game we call life would not be possible to get through without family.
Today, my Ball State Spring Training family and I adapted to the changing schedule and found meaningful stories.
Right now, baseball is everywhere in Florida.
And every day, someone has a story to tell.
Blog by: Aaliyah English
Finally, we are off the road. After two days of travel, it feels good to be in Sarasota, Florida. Today we are finally out of the car and doing what we came here to do, cover baseball.
We started our week reporting in familiar territory, covering Ball State Baseball during the Snow Bird Classic. I must say, it was nice to be surrounded by fellow Cardinals. It was a change of pace being able to cover a Ball State game and tell stories about more than just a player or the game itself.
We were able go out into the crowd and find multiple stories from multiple people. We were able to get a cool story about a die-hard Ball State fan, associate professor Kourtland Koch. He shared his story with us, talking about how he had been a Cardinals fan and friend to head coach Rich Maloney for 20 years.
Overall, I feel that covering Ball State was a good first stop for us. In a way, it was like a practice run. We were easily able to get access to the players at the facility and the fans were more than willing to talk to us. It gave us a chance to think about stories and trying new things like 360-degree video, GoPro video and other equipment we could potentially use at the stadiums we will eventually travel to. We were able to try new things and find stories without the pressure we will feel at the professional stadiums.
It wasn’t easy, we had to think on our feet to come up with stories, adjust to the equipment we were using and get used to the heat. Overall, I feel that it was a very productive day and I can’t wait to see all of the stories that will come out of today’s experience and the rest of the week.